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Corn and Feed Grains Market Analysis

Between the major feed grains produced around the world (corn, sorghum, barley, and oats), corn is the dominant grain ingredient used in animal feed. In the US, corn is also the major ingredient utilized as a feedstock in the ethanol production industry. Despite being produced across the globe, there are only a few major exporters of corn: the US, Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine. These four countries account for 48% of world production and 87% exports.

Key facts about the corn and feed grains market
  • Corn is produced around the globe, with total global production expected to reach 1.1 billion tonnes in 2020, with nearly 15% of that being traded outside domestic markets. US, Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine account for 87% of the world trade.
  • The US is the world’s largest exporter of corn, at 26% of global volumes, but Brazil has been gaining market share. Brazil has moved from exporting 5% of the world volume in 2006/07 to 24% in 2019. Farmers in Brazil plant the winter corn crop (or so called safrinha corn) following soybeans, which allows for two crops to be planted in the same area in the same marketing year. Brazil’s corn area has grown 140% since 2006/07.
  • Japan was the major world importer of corn for decades, but it has been recently surpassed by Mexico. Both countries account for about 34% of total global volumes. In recent years, Asian countries like South Korea and Malaysia have increased their imports of corn on increased demand for animal feed.
  • Supply remains the main price driver in the corn market. Because the major four exporters dominate world trade, any changes in production from these countries causes an imbalance in the world trade of corn.
  • In May 2019, when corn plantings in the US were delayed due to initial cold and wet conditions, nearby corn futures moved from $3.51 per bushel in early May to $4.54 per bushel in the middle of June, a 30% increase in about a month. The market was speculating a large decrease in corn production in the US.

Key themes affecting the Corn and Feed Grains market

Global meat consumption has trended upward significantly over recent decades, especially in developing economies, and this has boosted demand for animal feed.

The ethanol industry has also reshaped the corn market in the US and globally since 2005, with demand for corn in the US increasing drastically. The market is expected to change again as China plans to implement the E10 national mandate, whereby all gasoline must include 10% ethanol. The Chinese government has recently suspended the mandate, but China likely will gradually increase its domestic demand for ethanol. China is the second largest world producer of corn but already consumes almost all its production and so the expectation is that China will become a major importer of corn in the next few years.

Annual Corn Exports 1,000 Tonnes (Sep to Aug marketing year)
2017/182018/192019/20 *forecast2020/21 *forecast


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